Pebble Mine would jeopardize our livelihood

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Our commercial fishery has operated sustainably for 130 years, and the people of this region have harvested salmon here for thousands of years. Currently, this legendary wild salmon resource supports more than 4,000 full-time-equivalent jobs, including those of commercial fishermen, tradespersons, seafood processors and sport fishing guides, and can do so forever due to good science and common sense. Together, these jobs generate $480 million a year. They are all jeopardized by the Pebble Mine, which would provide far fewer jobs (1,000 total) – and those only for a few decades.

According to mining company information, the mine complex would occupy up to 54 square miles and would have to store and treat up to 10 billion tons of toxic mine waste, in perpetuity, in an area noted for its surface-level water table and earthquakes.

Independent scientists who just evaluated EPA's report suggest that reductions in the commercial catch of salmon may be one of the only forms of mitigation possible for the proposed Pebble mine. Risking our sustainable jobs for their short-term jobs is unfair and unacceptable.

It is also curious that in your story, Representatives Issa (R-Calif.) and Broun (R-Ga.) suggest that the EPA examination of our watershed is a case of federal overreach. In truth, EPA analyzed our watershed at the request of Alaska Native tribes, commercial fishermen and other Bristol Bay corporations. Even more to the point, most of Bristol Bay’s salmon bearing waters are navigable waters of the United States. Congress gave EPA authority over the quality of these waters in 1972. The fact is, EPA would be derelict in their duties if they did not engage in the matter.

Despite what its proponents suggest or ask us to believe, opposition to the Pebble Mine is not remotely limited to national environmental groups. Our clean waters and our thriving industry enjoy the support of more than 700 businesses, the National Council of Churches, 77 national commercial fishing groups and the majority of ordinary Alaskans. Prominent Alaskan Republican Rick Halford laid out his case against the mine in your publication last year, as has North Carolina Republican Robin Hayes.

Good American jobs are not an environmental or a partisan issue, they are a business issue. And Pebble is bad business.

Waldrop is executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association

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